Peter Tertzakian: Like a rocky romance, the oil relationship between Canada and the U.S. is complicated

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Canada's oil production far exceeds our needs but only a trickle makes it east.

“Why do Quebec and Atlantic Canada buy their oil from Iraq and Saudi Arabia?” asked Brian, an unsettled friend of mine who works in the oilpatch. “Alberta should be serving our own national interest,” he said with patriotic conviction.

I listened. I didn’t want to agitate him any further by saying that this country of ours has been having nationalistic debates about energy self-sufficiency since the 1950s. So at the risk of sounding cagey, like someone dealing with a rocky romance, I replied, “It’s complicated.”

That wasn’t a trite answer. The world’s oil systems represent an incredibly complex physiology of pipelines, tankers, rail cars, trucks, distribution hubs and refineries. Every second of every day over 1,100 barrels are pushed through metal arteries. From where and how oil products get to, and pass through, the nozzle at the gas pump is a marvel of logistics. And it’s also a result of cutthroat global competitors constantly muscling in and out of each others’ markets.

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